Versatile, flavorful vinegars

This article was originally published in August 2014

Vinegar, from the French word vin aigre (“sour wine”) has been used for centuries as folk medicine and to preserve and flavor foods. As the foundation of vinaigrettes and marinades, splashed into a pot of lentil soup, or even tossed with strawberries for an unusual topping for ice cream — its unmistakable tang can embolden and draw flavor from many foods. It’s a great way to add flavor without fat and with just a few calories. PCC has a wide assortment of artisanal, delicious vinegars for every use. Here are a few basics:

Apple cider vinegar

This vinegar can be added to sparkling water and honey for a refreshing, cleansing beverage, or used in dressings to add zing to a range of salads or cooked veggies and grains. Legend has it that in 400 B.C., Hippocrates, Father of Medicine, used it for its amazing healthful benefits — it’s often touted for having a positive impact on acid reflux, cholesterol, boosting the immune system, promoting digestion, and helping the body absorb nutrients from food. Apple cider vinegar balances pH levels and creates a healthy, alkalized state when you eat or drink it or use it as a skin care product.

Try it in: Perfect Protein Salad and Kale Wraps with Garlic Tahini Dressing.

Wine vinegars

  • Wine vinegars are made from grapes. 
  • Red-wine vinegar has a zesty, sharp flavor that’s light and refreshing. It has a slightly higher acidity than white wine vinegar, so it’s best to use it with stronger-tasting foods. Try it in: Grilled Steak Salad.
  • White wine vinegar is subtly sweet and tangy. Try it in: Honey Miso Dressing.
  • Sherry vinegar is from Spain and has been aged anywhere from 6 months to 50 years in wooden casks. It has a strong, nutty flavor and complements a variety of dishes from poultry, beef, and game to seafood and vegetables.
    Try it in: Roasted Beet Salad with Local Mixed Greens, Pickled Onions and Sherry Vinaigrette.

Coconut vinegar

When the coconut tree is tapped, it produces a highly nutrient-rich “sap” that exudes from the coconut blossoms. This certified organic coconut vinegar, made from the sap, is a source of 17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C, B vitamins, and naturally occurring FOS (a probiotic that promotes digestive health). Coconut vinegar has an alkalizing effect in the body, much like apple cider vinegar.

Tip: In addition to using with your favorite dressings and marinades, coconut vinegar may also be used instead of apple cider vinegar for skin care and with any internal cleansing program.

Balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar traditionally is made from boiled down juice from Italian trebbiano grapes, which then is aged for years in barrels made of various kinds of woods, each contributing a different flavor. The end product is a sweet vinegar that pairs well with sweet and savory dishes alike.

PCC carries several balsamic vinegars, including traditional brown, golden and white varieties.

Try it in: Balsamic Braised Greens with Pine Nuts and Prosciutto and Balsamic Strawberries.

Rice vinegar

Rice vinegar is made by fermenting rice into crude sake, then again into a vinegar with a gentle flavor that accentuates many Asian foods. It’s used in sushi rice, dipping sauces, sweet-and-sour dishes, and as a stir-fry seasoning. Submerge salted, sliced cucumbers in it to make quick, delicious pickles.

Try it in: Soba Noodles with Broccoli and Thai Peanut Sauce.

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